Understaffed and Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

We at Carpey Law have written on the issue of nursing home understaffing in the past — but as the quality of care in nursing homes continues to decrease, more attention is being given to how understaffing plays a role in nursing home abuse and neglect.

On July 23, 2012, ABC News ran an article citing understaffing as a major component in nursing home abuse. The piece, titled “Understaffed Nursing Homes Endanger Patients,” revealed that a new report by “federal health officials” heavily implicated low staff numbers as a root cause of poor care in nursing homes.

Understaffing Leads to Illnesses Among Nursing Home Patients 

For a nursing home to be severely understaffed puts added pressure on the few staff members working. This added pressure often leads to issues of abuse and / or neglect as staff struggle to fulfill all duties. Much of the time nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect is not committed by cruel staff members but overworked, exhausted, and stressed staff members. Their patience is waning and they cut corners in their tasks.

The new report says that the current standard for nursing care is that each patient receives 12 minutes of care from nurses a day, at the least. Right now, 31 percent of nursing homes in the US are not meeting that nursing home standard.

Many health issues can arise from this sort of nursing home neglect. Some of those issues are…

  • Bed sores. Also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, bed sores affect about 160,000 nursing home patients every year. That is about 11 percent of all residents in the US. Bed sores occur as a result of not having sheets changed or wounds addressed in a timely fashion. Left untreated, bed sores can become infected and lead to serious ailments.

  • Malnutrition. Often in an understaffing situation, nursing home residents are fed quickly, and sometimes forcefully. The product of rushed feeding procedures means some residents receive very little food while some are not being fed at all.

  • Abnormal Weight Loss. Stemming from malnutrition, abnormal weight loss can occur among residents who do not receive all of their meals. With abnormal weight loss comes a host of other, very serious ailments. Among these ailments are depression, infections, and death. Diseases can come on a patient at a higher rate when he or she is not eating well, and the patient’s muscles will begin to quickly waste away.

One of the reasons that these forms of nursing home neglect persist is because many patients can’t speak for themselves. Cognitive deficiencies keep an abused nursing home resident from complaining, asking for help, or even understanding that neglect is occurring. To learn more about nursing home neglect in the US, see the other articles on our site.